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The A Team in space-based broadband.

AT&T and AST SpaceMobile announce commercial agreement. Spire Global reports Q1 financial results. Lithuania signs the Artemis Accords. And more.




AT&T and AST SpaceMobile have entered a definitive commercial agreement to provide a space-based broadband network direct to everyday cell phones. Spire Global has announced Q1 financial results with revenue at $25.7 million, representing 6% year-over-year growth. The NASA-led Artemis Accords welcomes Lithuania as its 40th signatory, and more.

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T-Minus Guest

Our guest today is former NASA Astronaut and former head of NOAA, Dr. Kathy Sullivan. 

This chat was shared from the Inter Astra Podcast Network. Over 120 episodes of Kathy Sullivan Explores and more can be found at https://interastra.space/.

Selected Reading

AT&T and AST SpaceMobile Announce Definitive Commercial Agreement

AST SpaceMobile Provides Business Update and First Quarter 2024 Results

Spire Global Announces First Quarter 2024 Results- Business Wire

Booz Allen IDs Top 10 Emerging Technologies for DOD and National Security- Business Wire

Private mission to save Hubble Space Telescope raises concerns, NASA emails show : NPR

China’s giant Xuntian space telescope faces further delay until late 2026

Artemis Accords Reach 40 Signatories as NASA Welcomes Lithuania

New roadmap for pro-growth regulation in UK space sector launched as Science Minister launches new National Space Operations Centre - GOV.UK

Saudi Center for Space Futures will support lunar mission and $2tn global space economy, NASA chief tells Asharq TV | Arab News

Swedish delegation visits Rice campus with eye on space exploration- Rice News 

Robotic “SuperLimbs” could help moonwalkers recover from falls | MIT News | Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Space-based broadband networks, so hot right now. It's no wonder that we're seeing cell phone companies jump on the bandwagon. And the latest announcement comes from AT&T and AST Space Mobile. We wonder what the collective partnership name will be. Hmm, maybe the A-Team? [MUSIC] [MUSIC] T-minus. Twenty seconds to L-O-N. We're open aboard. [MUSIC] Today is May 16th, 2024. I'm Maria Varmausis, and this is T-minus. [MUSIC] AT&T and AST Space Mobile announce a commercial agreement. SPIRE Global reports Q1 financial results. Lithuania signs the Artemis Accords. And today, we're doing something a little different, and we're sharing an interview with former NASA astronaut and former head of NOAA, Dr. Kathy Sullivan. From our friends at the Inter-Astra Podcast Network. Kathy will be talking about how environmental intelligence from space shapes our daily lives. Definitely don't miss it. [MUSIC] It's Thursday. Let's take a look at our Intel briefing. You'd be forgiven for thinking that our top story is old news. AT&T and AST Space Mobile have entered a definitive commercial agreement to provide a space-based broadband network direct to everyday cell phones. And yes, this isn't a new partnership. Previously, the companies were working together under a memorandum of understanding. News of how this partnership will work financially was not shared with the press release, but we're seeing big dollar signs in the future. AT&T says this partnership is another key step to providing even more expansive connectivity on what they say is America's largest wireless network. And as for AST Space Mobile, their CEO Abel Avelin shared this statement. Working together with AT&T has paved the way to unlock the potential of space-based cellular broadband directly to everyday smartphones. We are thrilled to solidify our collaboration through this landmark agreement. And AST Space Mobile has provided a business update and first quarter financial results. The company reported total operating expenses of $56 million for the quarter. They say they're on target for July or August delivery of five Block 1 satellites to Cape Canaveral for launch into low-earth orbit. These initial five satellites will help enable commercial service that was previously demonstrated with several key milestones. These milestones achieved in 2023 include the first voice, text, and video call via space between everyday smartphones. Spire Global has also announced their Q1 financial results. And among the highlights were first quarter revenue at $25.7 million, which represents a 6% year-over-year growth. The Virginia-based Data, Analytics, and Space Services company also reported a first quarter net loss of $25.2 million, which is a 43% decline year-over-year. Recent business announcements include a multi-million-dollar deal with the financial firm for weather forecasts and SAT/AIS data services for the European Maritime Safety Agency. Booz Allen Hamilton has released research identifying the top 10 emerging technologies for the Department of Defense and National Security. Among the list are alternative position navigation and timing or PNT as a more robust alternative to existing vulnerable GPS-based PNT technologies. They've also listed space domain awareness tech for a thorough understanding of the space operating environment to perceive threats and reduce risk of collision through study and monitoring of satellites and orbital objects. The full list with all the cool tech can be found by following the link in our show notes. A fascinating exclusive story from NPR that's been getting a lot of buzz on space social media today and you should know about it. It's about entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, who, according to the NPR story, has said that he would personally pay to take a maintenance crew to the Hubble telescope if NASA would greenlight such a mission. Now Isaacman, who is also a private astronaut having orbited the Earth in a SpaceX capsule, is offering to save the space agency hundreds of millions of dollars. Isaacman has said that the Hubble mission should be a "no-brainer" and quote, "this should be an easy risk/reward decision." The Hubble telescope has already exceeded its intended lifespan, but it is expected to deorbit in 2034. And according to the NPR story, we should expect a public response by NASA to Jared Isaacman's offer later this year. I will be very curious to see how this shakes out. And speaking of space telescopes, Chinese media is reporting that China is likely to further postpone the launch of its Shuntian Space Telescope, also known as the Chinese Space Station Telescope, until late 2026. The new timeline, if confirmed by the China Man's Space Agency, would mark a three-year delay from the original late 2023 launch date previously reported by state-owned media. The NASA-led Artemis Accords welcomed its 40th signatory yesterday. Lithuania has joined the International Coalition on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space. An assigning ceremony took place in Vilnius, Lithuania, and signifies a continued push towards transparency and peace as more nations traverse farther into space. The UK has officially launched the National Space Operations Centre and announced a new space regulatory report published by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. The launch of the new facility marks a significant milestone, as it fulfills a key commitment outlined in the UK government's National Space Strategy, Defence Strategy, and the recently announced Space Industrial Plan. The National Space Operations Centre is jointly funded by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, the UK Space Agency, and MOD, with a total £20 million in funding in partnership with the Met Office. It will use a global network of sensors to support space operations with those on-site, overseeing and delivering critical missions, from tracking an average of 20 to 30 objects re-entering the Earth's atmosphere a month to protecting the UK-licensed satellites from collisions with space debris. The Space Regulatory Review establishes the key regulatory priority areas for the UK's space sector to maintain its competitive regulatory environment. And you can read that review, along with more information on all the stories that I've mentioned today, by, as always, following the links in the selected reading section of our show notes. And we've also included some pieces from Bill Nelson's visit to Saudi Arabia, and a Swedish delegation visit to Rice University in the US. Hey, T-Minus Crew! If your business is looking to grow your voice in the industry, expand the reach of your thought leadership, or recruit talent, T-Minus can help. We'd like to hear from you. Send us an email at space@ntuk.com, or send us a note through our website so we can connect about building a program to meet your goals. [Music] Today we're doing something a little different, and we're sharing an interview with former NASA astronaut and former head of NOAA, Dr. Kathy Sullivan, from our friends at the InterAstra Podcast Network. Kathy's sharing her incredible experience in space and the environment to explain the vital role that environmental intelligence from space plays in daily life, from weather forecasting to agricultural planning. My father was an engineer, and one of his favorite sayings in the years when he was coaching young engineers who were working with him was, "If you're the smartest person on two feet on the entire planet, but you can't express your ideas clearly, your expertise can never matter." And my version of that is, the only thing we actually do all by ourselves is have the start of a good idea. Everything beyond that requires connecting that idea with other people. My name is Kathy Sullivan, and you're listening to Your Business in Space. I bill myself as a scientist, astronaut, and explorer, but some of you might know, besides my three space shuttle flights, I'm been a deep-sea oceanographer and the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States, or NOAA. And NOAA is America's Environmental Intelligence Agency. And that's what I thought we'd talk about today. If I talk about environment and space in the same sentence, I have two different directions I can go with that, and they're both really informative and really important. One is, of course, if you're going to get in a small submersible and dive deep in the ocean or in spaceship and leave the atmosphere of the Earth, staying alive depends on you really mastering the environmental control system inside your craft. You're going to study it intently, you're going to know how it's supposed to work, you're going to know a lot about every single piece of that system, you're going to know a lot about how to fix anything that goes wrong, and what to keep an eye out for or an ear out for to tell you something's going wrong. So you're going to know that absolutely cold. And if I bring that mental model back here to Earth as an Earth scientist in my original training, I'm keenly aware that that metaphor is exactly what we should be thinking of as we go around our daily business on the Earth, because our Earth is actually a spaceship, bigger than the shuttle I flew for sure. But still, it's a spaceship, and it has a life support system. And that life support system for everything that lives here on Earth is nature itself. Our oceans, our atmosphere, our forests and lands, those are the pieces and elements of the life support system that keeps us, the crew members on spaceship Earth alive. And it's always been striking to me the different level of care and study and effort, attention invested in life support system as an astronaut, and the typically much, much lower level of attention crew members here on spaceship Earth devote to the environment that's keeping them alive. Well, let's shift gears a little bit though with that framing. Is there some way that our ability to operate in space helps us with that task of being better crew members, carrying more wisely for our life support system here on Earth? And the answer is absolutely yes. I think the simplest way everybody has probably the most experience with is your weather satellite. And it might surprise you to know that it's not that long ago, weather satellites had such poor vision, they couldn't do nearly as good a job as we know today of telling us when a storm is approaching, or even when a storm is brewing off in the ocean, it might become a hurricane or a cyclone that will devastate some communities. Now we can see those things from space weeks in advance, or days in advance, and not even see that they are there, but a lot of careful research and engineering over many, many years has let us put different kinds of eyes onto satellites. So we can actually measure the temperature of the atmosphere. We can measure the health of a forest, health of a field of crops over large areas and very, very rapidly. And there are countless ways that this capability is now helping farmers and land managers, ocean connoisseurs, scientists, all of us live better, wiser lives here on Earth and make recognize when the environment is going to affect our livelihood or our lives here on Earth and be prepared in advance for huge advance. But an interesting thing about all that, the instruments on the satellites do not send us answers. They just measure light levels. It's knowledge acquired through careful study by earth scientists and physicists and engineers that let us translate those light signals into the kind of knowledge that I was mentioning. And all of that work, taking the light levels from a satellite sensor and turning it into knowledge that can be useful, and then conveying that, relating that, connecting it to society, to decision makers, to people who will be helped by that information, that's all done here on Earth. It's a tremendous enterprise. I call it the Environmental Intelligence Enterprise. In the United States, it ranges from companies like the Weather Company and AccuWeather to all sorts of specialized companies that are tailoring their efforts to crop managers, to farmers who want better productivity out of their fields, and so on and so on and so on. So it's a really exciting connection between space and our environment right here on Earth. So you might say, "Well, that's a wonderfully rosy picture." Is it all good? I mean, space does nothing but help us with the environment. Aren't there any downsides? We launch a lot of rockets. Isn't each one of them injecting some pollution of some kind into the atmosphere? That's something we should worry about? That's a complicated question, and I sure don't have a simple answer to it. But it's a question that's on the right track. It's true. Every rocket is pushing things out at its exhaust nozzles. Some little injection of whatever's coming out the back end into our atmosphere. And it's true the number of launches per year has risen very rapidly, just in the last couple of years. So I think we probably are at a point where we need some good scientists to be paying some attention to what kind of fuels are different rockets using? How much does one rocket inject into the atmosphere as it flies off into space? And then how does that mix into the atmosphere? And does it change any properties in the atmosphere that are important to life on Earth? And if it maybe doesn't at the level of 10 rockets a year, could it increase to a level where we would need to start being concerned about it? Those are open questions that we don't have solid answers to yet. And that might be something that you want to contribute to, is jumping into the scientific work that will help us know and help us know in advance if we could reach a problem state due to more and more rocket launches and have some advanced warning of that. That would let us prepare for it. So back to my two sides of the space environment going, the other field I'm watching closely, because I'm fascinated to me, is what new things, what new capabilities are we going to need to learn and to develop if we're going to have greater numbers of people living in space or maybe even someday on the moon or other planets, as some people envision. What other lessons are we going to need to learn about those environments and about human health over the long term on those conditions? Our atmosphere and our magnetic field shield us here on the surface of the Earth from powerful radiation that swamps the whole solar system. We're living on the moon, we won't have that protective shield. We go off to Mars, we won't have that protective shield. So what will it require to keep people healthy there? I think those are really fascinating questions that are new fields of social science research, biological research and engineering research that are going to need people's attention and people's great talents to solve. So if you're a youngster or a young person in the midst of your education today and any of this intrigues you or excites you, or maybe it worries you and you want to get in the middle of it and try to help steer it in the right direction, what should you think about in terms of shaping your education? Well, the underpinnings of virtually everything I've talked about are the sciences, physics, math, earth sciences, engineering, if you want to get at the side of things of helping make the devices, make the tools, make the instruments that can help solve these problems or keep an eye on them so we know when we've got to deal with them. And then since all of that depends on connecting to people in ways that will propel the work, fund the work and make use of the results, it also all depends to a degree on good interpersonal skills and good communication. My father was an engineer and one of his favorite sayings in the years when he was coaching young engineers who were working with him was, "If you're the smartest person on two feet on the entire planet, but you can't express your ideas clearly, your expertise can never matter." And my version of that is the only thing we actually do all by ourselves is have the start of a good idea. Everything beyond that requires connecting that idea with other people. And so as you build your background in physics, math, science, earth science, do also work on your communication skills. They will be important to your success and to your contribution to society and to life on earth. If you're a small business, an entrepreneur looking for your own niche where you can start something up, I would pay close attention to this environmental intelligence idea. There are many more niches where the ability to take some signals from satellites, possibly add in some other data from instruments on the ground. You can translate that. You can develop the expertise, the software that can translate that into useful information that other businesses or governments need, and will pay you to provide them in reliable stream, a reliable fashion. We see that happening now in the world of military intelligence, an increasing degree in specialized weather forecasting. It is sure to extend into other environmental intelligence niches as well. And mid-career folks, I would say the same thing. You want to make a shift, get to someplace where life is frothier, where your sense of the value of your work is even richer, and maybe it is today. I would look at that environmental intelligence field, whether it's on the, it could be on the end of helping develop new sensors that give us new insights, new understanding of our planet, help us remove a blind spot in what we can see and know today, or it may be here on the ground in that translation enterprise that takes the satellite signal and turns it into useful knowledge that is tailored to the decision needs of a real world person, facing real world business and other problems. You know, and leaders in business and government, I think, have a very critical role to play on this as well. For starters, especially for government leaders, I think it's absolutely vital to recognize that this knowledge base we have that's given us these powerful tools today needs to be continually refreshed. We need more people coming into these fields. We do not know everything that needs to be known to sustain this level of success and be able to continue to evolve this enterprise to meet the needs of tomorrow and into the future. So continuing to support sound amounts of research in the earth sciences, in fundamental earth sciences and physics and engineering, that's important. Discover the next capability that might not even fully know right now we need, but if we don't have talents sowing the seeds for those future capabilities, we have no chance of having the future capabilities when we discover that we need them. And then also, I think, on the more pure sustainability front, leaders in business and government have the capability to ask the questions and set the standards and expectations that help assure that business plans and project plans are oriented towards and factoring in at the beginning, sustainability and environmental sensitivity. These are not things we can bolt on at the end after we've done what we want to do it. Now I'm going to slather a little bit of green paint on it and say that I was, it's very sustainable. We've got to be including those attributes, thinking about those aspects of the system or device that we're building at the design stage and insisting they be accounted for from the beginning. It's a vibrant and exciting field. It's not going to get slowed down anytime soon given the number of people living on this planet and the continued challenges that are emerging from our environment. So come on and join the party. It's a great place to be and exciting work to be doing. And we need more talents like yours. And you can find more episodes featuring Dr. Kathy Sullivan at interastra.space. We'll be right back. Welcome back. Confession time. I know we've all done it. Seen the videos of astronauts tripping and falling over on the lunar surface slowly and having a bit of a giggle as if it'd be easy for any of us to do that. Nah, but if you told me that you'd seen that footage and didn't let out even the tiniest little chuckle, honestly, I wouldn't believe you. I mean, we're only human, right? And not that many of us would need an excuse to watch these funny videos, but imagine doing it for an actually useful reason. Leave it to my friends just a bit further down the Charles River for me over at MIT. They saw those pratfalls and thought, "Maybe I can't prevent the astronauts from slipping on the proverbial banana peel, but how can I help a face-planted astronaut?" Well, a team of MIT engineers have physically prototyped something called superlims or supernumerary robotic limbs that can mechanically assist a fallen-down astronaut to get back up with a lot less effort than what the Apollo moonwalkers had to deal with. The need is great. An astronaut that has fallen and can't get up easily at worst could become injured, and when you're working on the moon, every moment really counts. And precious moments spent trying to recover from a fall mean in-the-field research that might not happen. And with the Artemis era of moon exploration upon us, fingers crossed, it makes sense that this is an issue that researchers need to mitigate. MIT doctoral student Eric Ballesteros, who is part of the team working on the superlims, added that, "During the Apollo era when astronauts would fall, 80% of the time it was when they were doing excavation or some sort of job with a tool. The Artemis missions will really focus on construction and excavation, so the risk of falling is much higher. We think that superlims can help them recover so they can be more productive and extend their EVAs." Now, the superlims team will spend the summer at NASA's JPL building out the full system and running it through tests, tests, and more tests. And presumably falling on their faces quite a bit for science. [Music] That's it for T-Minus for May 16th, 2024, brought to you by N2K CyberWire. For additional resources from today's report, check out our show notes at space.n2k.com. We're privileged that N2K and podcasts like T-Minus are part of the daily routine of many of the most influential leaders and operators in the public and private sector. From the Fortune 500 to many of the world's preeminent intelligence and law enforcement agencies. This episode was produced by Alice Carruth. Our associate producer is Liz Stokes. We are mixed by Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester, with original music by Elliot Peltzman. Our executive producer is Jennifer Iben. Our executive editor is Brandon Karp. Simone Petrella is our president. Peter Kilpey is our publisher. And I'm your host, Maria Varmasus. Thanks for listening. See you tomorrow. [Music] T-Minus. [Music] [BLANK_AUDIO]

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